The Romanticizing of Illicit Drug Use in Film
Tami B. Eikelboom
Arizona State University
MLS 598 Topic: Inviting the Wolf in: Taboo in Texts/Visual Texts Giron
Americans have become so obsessed with celebrity culture that illicit drug use in film uses that to often portray it as glitzy and glamorous. Drug use is frequently characterized in the fashion of how it actually ensues on the street, or in whatever venue it occurs. This use of drugs has been depicted as both tempting and alluring, as well as, disgusting and corrupt. The film industry has taken this taboo and shown the highs and lows of drug use. It is apparent to some that drug, alcohol, and tobacco use is glamorized on the big screen. This causes officials of the federal government to question where the downside to substance abuse is. There is an unglamorous side to substance abuse. People have slurred speech, hangovers, and getting into trouble with the police is a big problem with substance abuse (Riechmann 19A). If movies are going to portray drug use, they should also show the bad side to substance abuse. If they were to do so, the romance with drug use on the big screen might very well become diminished. It has recently been determined "people were depicted doing drugs, drinking or smoking in 98 percent of the top movie rentals and 27 percent of the most popular songs in 1996 and 1997. Fewer than half these movie scenes and song lyrics mentioned any downside to these activities" (Riechmann 19A). The Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Department of Health and Human Services commissioned the study of 200 films and 1,000 songs (Riechmann 19A). This proves the romance that America has with drug use in the movies. The movies present drug use in a manner in which wealth and luxury are portrayed. Drug kingpins are filthy rich. They have no lack for anything of a material nature. They have expensive homes and automobiles. They have jets or helicopters. They travel and stay at luxurious places. The men have any woman they want, and women love the wealth of the men. Users get high. They enjoy the relaxation that using their drug of choice gives to them. By using drugs, they are living on the edge. They know that it is illegal, but they do it anyway. It is something they do for recreation, and they are not addicted. Cocaine is passed around like candy at parties in the movies. The drug user wears expensive clothing. He/she can afford the substance. Drugs are a life-style. They are available to the rich and the famous. The study did not come right out and say that films and music actually cause the use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs by young people. According to researchers, the first step in understanding how greatly music and films influence young people in abuse of substances such as alcohol, drugs, and tobacco is to be able to ascertain the "frequency and nature of substance abuse use in entertainment media" (Riechmann 19A). The drug control policy director for the Clinton Administration is Barry McCaffrey. McCaffrey understands that using those substances is a fact of life. He does suggest, however that the consequences of such activities must also be realistically portrayed. The Motion Picture Association of America spokesperson suggested that there had not been sufficient time to review the study, but the Recording Industry Association of America claims to be assisting in the control of substance abuse by teenagers (Riechmann 19A). The concerns of drug use portrayal on the big screen have come into focus in the past few years. Some see drug use in films as the creator of a society that is more apt to abuse drugs. Others see nothing wrong with the drug use in movies. To them, drug use is a fact of life from which they can disassociate themselves, and there is no cause for alarm. Nelba Chavez is the administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services...
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